This is a great short film which is described simply as being about ‘the magic of free parking,’ but you soon realize that this is about much more than free parking. It follows the character of Hugh Newman as he sets about giving compliments to people, one by one, through his job as a validation officer – validating them in various ways, and people start flocking. His secret? He just loves to see people smile!

It’s a real feel-good opening which is then met by a road bump: a lady – Victoria – who will not smile. Hugh does all he can think of in attempting to validate Victoria and win a smile from her, but he is distressingly unsuccessful. He finally laments, ‘I just wanted to see you smile’, and with that his own smile has gone and he is fired.

Of course, the charm of short films is that things tend to work out positively. Hugh rediscovers his lease on life and all things smiles when he is asked to work as a photographer, and later, in a delightful twist of fate, he meets Victoria again, this time with her smile fully restored!

Validation can speak strongly to each one of us, because it makes us think of the ways in which we ourselves seek validation, or the ways in which we validate others. We often find in ourselves a longing to receive approval from others.

But as Christians we know that the world cannot tell us who we are. The world cannot validate us. Although it is often nice to hear, “you’re looking very smart tonight,” or, “you have very beautiful eyes” – these can never even scratch the surface of who we really are, the deepest part of us, the core of our identity – who God says that we are!

We are able to learn who God says we are every time we open the Gospels, every time we encounter the Sacraments, and every time we look to the saints.

A child of God: ‘But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God’ – Jn 1: 12

A friend: ‘No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.’ – Jn 15:15

Chosen: ‘For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you’ – 1 Th 1: 4

These are just a few of the many examples of who God says that we are; but above all we find in the Blessed Trinity that we are loved. He knows us and He loves us. I mean he really knows us! And he still really loves us! There’s nothing more central to our identity in Christ than this, that we are beloved children of God, and that God, who ‘dwells in unapproachable light’, wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son – CCC52.

A few questions you may wish to consider:

1.) Have we ever searched for validation in the wrong places?

2.) Do we listen to who God says we are? Do we believe it, and if so, how does this affect the way we behave?

3.) In what ways can we show God’s love to others?